In recent years, cruise lines have made impressive strides toward becoming more environmentally conscious. The commitment to the environment has been demonstrated through recycling and garbage separation, which are commonplace on all cruise ships.
The introduction of LNG-powered and hybrid-powered vessels and hull coatings that minimize noise pollution to protect marine life have also become standard features.
However, these efforts might be in vain if waste disposal from cruise ships isn’t handled with the same level of responsibility off the ships as it is onboard. Something which became apparent in Cozumel this month.
Local Company Dumps Cruise Ship Waste
As reported by Riviera Maya, the Cozumel company, Ecología Industrial y Marina del Caribe (Ecomar), was fined for illegally dumping waste, including recyclable materials, from cruise ships in a local landfill.
The company was flagged for its violations on May 16, and after a thorough investigation, Ecomar’s representative, Eduardo Puente García, was issued a fine on May 22.
Germán Yáñez Mendoza, the Director of the Departamento de Ecología, led the investigation, which traced Ecomar’s route from the cruise ship loading dock to the sanitary landfill and finally to a vacant lot on the island. The investigation could not conclusively identify the cruise ships from which the waste originated.
The company was given a week to present the necessary permits for waste removal services. After failing to do so, Ecomar was fined and prohibited from using Cozumel’s facilities for cruise ship waste disposal.
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It’s important to stress that cruise companies are not to blame for this instance of illegal dumping, as waste management companies must dispose of waste correctly.
It also seems unlikely that many cruise lines will want to use this company for its waste disposal services in the future. In the last ten years, many cruise lines have adopted strict regulations that govern every aspect of waste disposal.
Balancing Environmental Responsibility and Tourism
Cozumel is the world’s busiest cruise port of call, behind homeports such as Miami, Port Canaveral, and Port Everglades. The island expects a staggering 1,152 cruise ships carrying over 3.7 million guests in the coming year.
Cozumel is an important port of call for many major cruise companies, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line. While this influx of cruise ship passengers bodes well for the local economy, it also inevitably creates a significant amount of waste.
As the incident with Ecomar demonstrates, managing this waste responsibly is crucial to maintaining the environmental integrity of the region.
To ensure responsible waste management, cruise lines have created procedures that align with international standards, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 14001 in this case), which establishes guidelines for waste management, among other environmental aspects.
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By following these guidelines, cruise companies can identify and control the environmental impact of their activities. The ISO standard not only focuses on the treatment of waste on board but also emphasizes the responsible disposal of waste after it has been transported from the ship.
The recent advancements made by the cruise industry in promoting sustainability and environmental responsibility are noteworthy. Still, it’s clear that maintaining these standards must extend to all facets of the operation, including the proper disposal of waste. Only then can the industry ensure a truly sustainable and responsible approach to its activities.